Esteban Ocon believes the 2018 season will be the most important of his career as he bids to impress his Mercedes-Benz bosses to try and bring himself into contention for a seat with the Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport team.
The Frenchman is a protégé of the German marquee but races for the Sahara Force India F1 Team, and impressed many with his performances last season with the Silverstone-based team after joining them after making his debut in the 2016 Belgian Grand Prix with the Manor Racing MRT team.
Although Lewis Hamilton is set to re-sign with Mercedes sooner rather than later, Valtteri Bottas only has a one-year contract with Mercedes, and Ocon knows that an impressive season in 2018 will put him into a strong position to move into the seat ahead of the likes of Pascal Wehrlein and George Russell if the seat does become available.
“I think it is one of the most important year of my careers,” said Ocon to Motorsport.com. “After learning a lot last year, everybody is waiting for me to confirm this year, which is quite normal. It’s what my bosses are looking at.
“My career’s managed by Mercedes so my bosses set me some targets for this year and I have to respect them. I feel like if I do a strong job here there will always be plenty of opportunities, but at the moment I’m fully focused on Force India and that’s the important thing.”
Ocon has identified where he needs to improve in 2018, and he feels that it is his performances on a Saturday afternoon that needs the most work, as his race pace was often far more impressive than his Qualifying efforts.
“It’s my own personal development, my physical strengths and the weakness I felt I had,” said Ocon. “All that is fixed now. I feel more than ready to start the year.
“I felt that all through the year I was fast through the race but I was lacking a bit of qualifying pace, especially in the beginning of the year. That was gone by the end, I was feeling better and stronger in qualifying. It was more normal and coming to me.”